President Obama seems unfazed by threats from House Democrats who have pledged not to bring his tax framework to the floor in its current form.
In an interview with NPR, Obama conceded there will probably be discussions between the House and the Senate on the bill, but he seemed convinced that the basics of the deal he negotiated with Republicans would remain unchanged. When asked if the Democrats were acting like “hostage-takers” – a phrase he used to describe Republican opposition to ending tax cuts for the wealthy in a press conference earlier this week – he shied away from lambasting members of his own party.
“The bottom line is for everybody to act responsibly and to think not in terms of abstract political fights here…on Capitol Hill, but to think about those families that, in the middle of the holiday season, are trying to figure out, are they still going to have unemployment benefits at the end of this month?”
The House Democratic Caucus voted to block the bill on Wednesday from being taken up in its current form, still hoping to decouple the Bush-era tax cuts so they can block an extension of the current rates for the wealthiest Americans. They also want to negotiate for a better deal on the estate tax.
“We have tremendous concerns about what was given away by the White House to Mitch McConnell in the Senate,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., on Wednesday. DeFazio introduced the resolution to block consideration of the bill.
Obama reiterated the urgency of acting, warning that a deal protects Americans in a tough economy.
“Here's what I'm confident about: that nobody - Democrat or Republican - wants to see people's paychecks smaller on January 1 because Congress didn't act,” Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “And I think that the framework that we've put forward, which says not only that people's taxes don't go up on January 1 but also that we extend unemployment insurance for a year, that we make sure that key provisions like the college tax credit, the child tax credit, the earned-income tax credit are included - that that framework is going to serve as the basis for compromise.”
Obama also floated the idea of reforming the entire tax code, an idea that crept into his rhetoric during the tax debate. He told NPR’s Inskeep that people in government would have to start a discussion about reforming the tax code “over the next year” in order to remove loopholes and special interest provisions that have been built in.
Earlier this week, he said in a press conference that the Republicans will eventually have to reconcile their seemingly contradictory support for extending tax cuts and cutting the deficit. And Obama predicted, for his part, that “I’ll have the opportunity to make the case that we’ve got to have tax reform; that we’ve got to simplify the system; that we do have to cut spending where it makes sense. But we’re also going to have to make sure that we’ve got a tax code that is fair and that looks after the interest of middle-class Americans and continues to grow the economy.”
But at this point an overhaul of the tax code is still in its infancy. A senior administration official told National Journal that while reform has been on the administration’s to-do list for some time, it could take years to actually happen, and the president has yet to convene a single policy meeting on the issue.